Way Back When… 1909
This year marked the opening of Casper Schick’s café on Oxford Road in Southport. A decade later the federal government passed Prohibition, a series of laws that made the selling and consumption of alcohol illegal, closing saloons like this and others in town. The Fairfield Museum and History Center’s newest exhibit Flappers: Fashion and Freedom, focuses on that time in history and is now open to the public.
Fairfield, like many other coastal towns, still had alcohol readily available courtesy of “rum runners,” who used speedboats to deliver liquor along the Connecticut shoreline. However, more inland locations had to come up with different ways of attaining their spirits, including bootlegging. As for the illegal trade in liquor, the county saw a distinct rise in organized crime and corruption. An example of this in Fairfield occurred in 1923 when a driver was stopped by a constable on the Post Road. While the driver claimed to be carrying sausage castings, the constable discovered 1,200 barrels of bootleg beer. Additionally, three months later the constables would learn of a 100-gallon still during a raid at Hoyden’s Hill. Trying to enforce the liquor laws sometimes threatened the profits of organized crime networks, creating dangerous situations for the constables.
This was also a time when women were becoming more visible in public, both socially and politically. Rebellious “flappers” patronized “speakeasies,” or private clubs that would serve alcohol, violating earlier traditions that banned women from drinking in public. There were also socially prominent women in Fairfield, such as Annie B. Jennings and Sylvia O’Dwyer who became active in the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. While organized women had been at the forefront of enacting Prohibition in the 1910s, more than a million of them were working to reform it by 1932.
Visit Flappers: Fashion and Freedom to learn more about Prohibition in Connecticut as well as the connection between fashion and women’s freedom in the 1920s. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Fairfield Museum will be hosting a “speakeasy” party in October. Information and tickets are available at Fairfieldhistory.org or by calling (203) 259-1598.
The Fairfield Museum & History Center and Museum Shop, located at 370 Beach Road, is open seven days a week, 10am-4pm. Members of the Museum and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org. The Fairfield Museum relies on funding from individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Museum is especially grateful for support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts, the State of Connecticut, Town of Fairfield and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.